tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC December 14, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
east bay, 35. south bay, 38. chance of rain on saturday, sunday, monday, and tuesday. >> wow. >> good thing we have him. >> yeah. tonight, getting nasty. donald trump calls ted cruz a maniac, as cruz surges ahead in iowa and the gop establishment grapples with a nightmare scenario. hours from a critical showdown. court martial. beau bergdahl, the american army sergeant freed in a controversial prisoner swap with the taliban, now facing a potential life sentence here, charged with desertion and endangering the lives of fellow troops. records shattered. with winter a week away it feels like spring across much of the country. what's causing it? and you won't believe how long it will last. and autism risk? doctors report a connection between pregnant women taking anti-depressants and increased chance of having a baby with autism. what all expectant
parents should know. "nightly news" begins right now. good evening, as suddenly surging ted cruz has set the stage for a potential republican showdown in iowa between two men who enter this race as outsider book ends to the gop mainstream. several new polls show senator cruz rapidly moving up on donald trump, pitting the two into open political warfare, and presenting a challenge and a dilemma to the party establishment. all coming on the eve of tomorrow's next republican debate. nbc's kasie hunt has the latest. >> reporter: less than 50 days out from the iowa caucuses, ted cruz is closing in on donald trump, and their unofficial truce officially over. >> look at the way he's dealt with the senate, where he goes in there like a, you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac. >> reporter: so far,
cruz is laughing off trump's attacks, taking to twitter with a link to the famous "maniac" theme from "flashdance." ♪ she's a maniac, maniac ♪ >> trump is still leading in national polls. in iowa, "the des moines register" poll shows cruz beating him by ten points. what is behind the surge? a sophisticated game in iowa. long drive. >> 13 1/2 hours. >> reporter: they're joining dozens of volunteers who are so dedicated they're paying their own way to bunk in a dorm known as camp cruz. you are actually in dorm beds. my husband says let's bunk 'em. >> oh, fantastic. >> reporter: this is where camp cruz becomes the strike force, getting equipped with tablets that show them which doors to knock on and what to say as they try to convince iowa voters to pick ted cruz. >> can ted cruz count on your support in the caucus?
>> yes. >> reporter: but not everyone is sold, and there are signs trump's attacks are hitting home. >> there's just a little bit something just about his persona comes across that i haven't bought yet. >> reporter: the gop establishment never saw it coming, the republican nomination fight between two outsiders who have made few friends inside the party. >> trump and cruz could be a disaster for the republican party. it's going to be difficult potentially for the party to win over mainstream voters in swing states. >> reporter: republicans are gathering here in las vegas ahead of the last debate of the year. also today, donald trump releasing a letter from his doctor saying that if he wins, he'd be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." lester? >> kasie, thank you. now to the stunning turn of events for u.s. army sergeant bowe bergdahl held captive by the taliban for five years after walking away from his base in afghanistan, then finally freed last year in a dramatic and controversial prisoner swap. many called bergdahl a deserter or worse, and now tonight, he's
facing a court-martial as our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski reports. >> reporter: held hostage by the taliban for five years, sergeant bowe bergdahl could face life in a military prison the army ordered him to face court-martial for desertion and endangering the safety of his fellow soldiers. >> 20 minutes out, good grief, i'm over my head. suddenly this starts to sink in, i really did something bad. >> reporter: in his first person account for the podcast serial, bergdahl describes how he walked away from his outpost in eastern afghanistan to warn army commanders of leadership problems, but was soon captured by a group of heavily armed taliban fighters. >> i'm not stupid enough to try and knife off a bunch of guys with ak-47s. >> reporter: bergdahl was released in a controversial prisoner swap for five taliban prisoners held at guantanamo bay. that same day, president obama welcomed bergdahl's parents to the rose garden.
>> wonderful. it's a good day. >> yes, it's a today good day. >> reporter: today bergdahl's attorney called the charges against his client excessive. >> the government had for one thing only, a one-day awol. >> reporter: the army itself is split over the case. many believe bergdahl should be punished for putting the lives of his fellow soldiers at risk but the investigator in the case suggests that any jail time for bergdahl would be inappropriate. bergdahl remains on active duty, no date has been set for his court-martial. jim miklaszewski, nbc news, the pentagon. many americans are on edge following the recent attacks in paris and san bernardino. in our brand new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll, 40% say the federal government's top priority is national security and terrorism. that number has more than doubled since april, and 29% say they're worried that they, or a loved one, will be the victim of a terror attack. but today, for the second time in just over a week, president
obama argued that his strategy against isis is working. this time he made those comments in a rare appearance at the pentagon. >> last month in november we dropped more bombs on isil targets than any other month since this campaign started. the point is isil leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple, you are next. >> the president was at the pentagon for a meeting with his national security council. on thursday he will also visit the national counterterrorism center before traveling to hawaii on friday for christmas vacation. let's turn now to the missed signs in the san bernardino terror attack. as of now, screeners do not regularly look at social media for people applying to come to this country on so-called fiance visas but that could change now that we know one of the killers left clues on social media before she came here, but they weren't flagged until too late. we get more from our pete williams.
>> reporter: well before she applied to come to the united states, officials say, tashfeen malik was expressing support for violent jihad on social media, but the u.s. agencies that reviewed her application for a fiance visa did not know that. now the obama administration is reviewing whether social media for visa applicants should be checked, something many employers already do. >> the social media placed a whole new burden and a whole new set of questions, but not impossible ones to resolve. >> reporter: here's how the process works, a u.s. citizen applies for a k-1 visa to bring in a fiance from overseas. the name of the foreign applicant is checked against u.s. terrorism databases and state department officers overseas get the applicant's fingerprints and check criminal records but surprisingly, even in pakistan where tashfeen malik is from, the process seldom includes a face-to-gase feaece interview. >> we only interview
in the k-1 program in cases where there's some issue that needs to be explored. >> reporter: tonight u.s. officials say tashfeen malik's jihadist messages were not only missed because they weren't checked but also because they were sent privately to the facebook page of her sister, not posted publicly. meantime investigators work to build a time line for what malik and syed farook were doing before and after the shooting. >> there was a moment that a vehicle very similar to that newer model ford excursion, i believe that's what it was, had passed by the dealership. >> tonight the chairman of the house homeland security committee says it will consider a bill to require in-person interviews and social media screenings for visa applicants. last year the number of fiance visas was about 36,000. tonight we're just over a week from winter, but you wouldn't know it, across much of the country, where it's so
warm, it feels like spring, and heat records are dropping left and right. temperatures in the 60s and 70s, where last year they were already buried in snow. nbc's dylan dreyer reports on the reason and how long into winter this will last. >> reporter: just eight days before the official start of winter, a december heat wave has set more than 1,000 record high temperatures across the northeast and midwest. out west it's another story, winter is in full effect, treacherous roads, and packed slopes, but ski resorts back east are seeing green and not the good kind. >> we really need the temperatures to change, or at least become a little more seasonal so we can get a product out and get the facility open. >> reporter: by this time last year, upstate new york was already buried by snowstorms. up to six feet of snow fell in parts of western new york. what a difference a year makes, with no snow so far this december, buffalo broke a 116-year-old record. last year's bone chilling temperatures have given way to this, record
temperatures reaching new highs, 70 in philadelphia, 71 in buffalo, and 72 in baltimore. it's like weather whiplash, thanks in part to el nino. >> what we are seeing this year is a near record-setting el nino pattern over the pacific ocean, which is transporting very warm air across the entire united states. >> reporter: with el nino reaching its peak, the country can expect several more weeks of mild temps in the midwest and northeast, and storms out west, but as we approach february, a more typical winter should return. now here in new york city, it is still 61 degrees after hitting a high of 65 earlier today, and for those of you hoping for a white christmas, i'm sorry, but it looks like most of the country will not be seeing one this year. don't worry, it will snow eventually, it's just not goi to get here in time for christmas. lester? >> dylan dreyer tonight in new york, thank you. it happened exactly three years
ago today, a massacre of innocents, one of the worst mass shootings in our nation's history, 20 children, ages 6 and 7, murdered along with six adults at sandy hook elementary school in newtown, connecticut. in the aftermath, there was a sense in this country that something would change, whether it be gun law, better access to mental health care or some other solution, but as our stephanie gosk reports, hundreds of children have lost their lives to gun violence in this country since that awful day three years ago. >> reporter: one name on this list would be one too many. instead at least 555 children under the age of 12 have died from firearms since the shooting at sandy hook school, roughly one child every other day for the last three years. the numbers compiled by nbc news showed children are no safer from guns now than they were before the newtown shooting. even though overall gun violence in the country has dropped. the stories are as varied as they are tragic.
>> why did this have to happen? why couldn't it have just been me? >> reporter: hi vu's 10-year-old son aaron was killed when two gunmen robbed his business and opened fire. 9-year-old tyshawn was murdered because gang members allegedly had a vendetta against his father. 9-year-old corbin. some of the deaths could have been avoided with better gun safety, and with gun sales on the rise, it's a focus for some dealers. >> people have loaded guns in the house are just asking for a problem if they have young children. >> reporter: bob viden's family has owned this gun shop in new jersey since the '70s. he actually helped write the state law requiring a gun lock be sold with every gun. you have to have a license to drive a car. you're feeling that should extend to gun ownership? >> i have no problem with people carrying guns. it should go through some type of training or to go pass a test to make sure they're
qualified. >> reporter: he is among 84% of americans who support background checks for all gun sales, but legislation on background checks went nowhere in congress. >> right now, we are being distracted by cultural debates rather than on the central policy questions that are important to keeping americans safe from gun violence. >> reporter: still since the newtown shooting, 41 states have passed their own laws strengthening gun regulation, not willing to wait for congress. evidence that in some places, these faces have broken the gridlock. stephanie gosk, nbc news, glassboro, new jersey. still ahead tonight could you be putting your child at higher risk of autism? what a new study has to say about pregnant women who take antidepressants. also what you're required to do if you're getting one of these hot holiday gifts, or else risk a fine over $1,000.
we're back with news about autism that you need to hear, if you or someone you love are expecting. new study just out today found a troubling connection between mothers who take widely prescribed antidepressants and higher risk at their children developing autism. >> reporter: in what is a time of great expectation and anxiety for women, today a set of scary headlines.
new study finds the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, if taken during the second and third trimesters, are associated with an 87% increased risk of autism. but experts say it's a big jump of what is still a very small number. >> for women who are taking antidepressant during pregnancy, they found that they have one-half of 1% of an increase in having an autistic child. >> reporter: this is the latest study to link antidepressants to birth defects and developmental delays. the drugs in today's study are called ssris, with brand names such as prozac, paxil and zoloft. one manufacturer says it's reviewing the study, which does not conclude these drugs cause autism. >> it's really just a correlation, not a cause and effect, so it's possible that something else has caused this increase in the group that took antidepressants. >> reporter:
obstetrician joanne stone says she won't tell her patients to stop taking the drugs because untreated depression can be very serious. what are the risks of not taking the medications? >> the risk of not taking the medication are increased risk for poor pregnancy outcome, higher preterm delivery rates, higher caesarian rates and potentially higher risk for adverse outcome for the babies. >> reporter: meaning women need to look at all options when deciding what's best for them and their babies. anne thompson, nbc news, new york. we're back in a moment with why you may not be able to buy a hot holiday gift from one of the biggest online retailers.
concerns about the risk of fires caused by their lithium ion batteries. the consumer products safety commission is investigating reports of at least 11 such instances, and all of the country's major airlines have banned them from flights. and another item on so many wish lists, drones. if you own one or you plan to give one as a gift, it will have to be registered with the government. new rules at the faa is detailing tonight as the feds try to cut down on the close calls between drones and airplanes, more than 1,000 just this year. here's nbc's tom costello with more. >> reporter: it's the must have gadget of the year, more than 400,000 drones are expected to be sold over the holidays, a whopping 1.5 million for all of 2015. they've also crashed at sporting events, even on the white house lawn. >> we just had something fly over us, i don't know if it was a drone or balloon, it just came real quick. >> reporter: pilot report 100 drone sightings and close calls each month. now the faa is rolling
out new rules that go into effect next monday, all drone owners 13 and older must register their drones online, including name, address, and e-mail. the cost $5, though that will be waived for the first 30 days. >> we think this is not just about registering. this is also about educating and providing folks with the information they need to do this safely. >> don't fly near airports or any manned aircraft. >> reporter: by registering the drones user also also get the rules, fly below 400 feet, at least five miles from airports. while the drone industry today applauded registration, the model aircraft association calls it an unnecessary burden for its members. >> you're always going to have a guy that does something stupid. >> reporter: we recently caught up with some drone enthusiasts. >> give me a list of five things that the government does well. they're going to screw it up. >> reporter: registering drones will allow authorities to track down owners if they crash in restricted air space. the potential fine $1,100 per offense. tom costello, nbc news, washington. when we come back,
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finally tonight, for a lucky few, the wait is over. "star wars: the force awakens" is premiering tonight in hollywood. it was a long time ago, way back in 1977, when the original became a force in popular culture. now all these years later, as our joe fryer reports, the new sequel is the most widely anticipated movie of the year. ♪ >> reporter: in a galaxy far, far away, better known as hollywood -- >> oh no! >> reporter: "star wars" lovers are lining up outside the tcl chinese theater. >> it's like every family reunion. you make time for it, you can't miss it. >> reporter: some of the fans will have spent 12 days in line. caroline ritter and andrew porters traveled from australia, before seeing the movie thursday, they'll get married right here, so what's more important? >> technically the wedding but the movie is just as important. >> reporter: set about
30 years after "return of the jedi" "the force awakens" will introduce a new crop of characters and mark the return of princess leia, now a general, and han solo. >> we're home. >> reporter: the movie is expected to earn $1.5 billion and $2 billion worldwide, maybe more. >> incredible numbers, they could be record-breaking and could be in the top three movies of all-time. >> reporter: the star-studded world premiere takes place tonight in hollywood, but when the original movie premiered in 1977, there was little fan. >> narrator: fare >> they were surprised next thing you know we have people wrapped around the block. >> reporter: somewhere in the horde of moviegoers, 3-year-old brendan thibodeau, 30 years later back in line. >> i can't wait to see it, i can't wait. it's giong to be amazing. >> reporter: for generations old and new, it's clear the force is still with us. joe fryer, nbc news, hollywood. >> and that will do it for us on this monday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc
news, thank you for watching, and good night. they singled me out. they singled me out based on the way that i look. >> right now at 6:00 she's talking about what happened at a bay area sporting goods store. a conversation with a clerk about ammunition triggered a visit at her home with police. good evening, thanks for being with us. i'm raj mathai. i'm jessica aguirre. the woman who got that visit believes she was racially profiled. she's a certified instructor who asked about buying ammunition
for an assault rifle. they spoke with the fremont police about why they felt they had to knock on her door. >>. >> reporter: fremont police not talking a lot on camera at all about this. officers, by the way, telling the woman when they went to her door, the reason they're there is because the san bernardino shootings have put them on a heightened alert. last wednesday at dick's sporting goods, this woman asked about buying eight boxes of ammunition for her ar-156789 the same weapon used in the recent san bernardino shootings. she didn't byham owe but used her card to buy an exercise mat. two days later, two police officers knocked on her door saying the employee had alert d them. >> i don't know if it was my skin color, i don't know if it's the way i look. i'm indian. i was born and raised in america. i'm a citizen here. i'm not muslim. but if i was, even if i was, i don't think that that's grounds for them to call